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Balancing Medical School and Love

Navigating the Relationship Rollercoaster


You must have heard the notion that being in a romantic relationship during medical school is pretty much impossible. A lot of my friends echo this sentiment and they can't seem to find time for love whilst simultaneously juggling the demanding nature of our education. The typical opinion is that unless your partner is also a medic, they will never be able to comprehend the limited spare time we have available; and even if your partner is a medic, you're still not very lucky because then both of you are busy, and neither of you end up finding time for each other.


I completely understand these perspectives - with an intensive, never-ending curriculum it's no surprise that a lot of my peers have romance lower down on their list of priorities. Long hours on placement, all-nighters spent studying, and the constant pressure to excel all of this is incredibly difficult to maintain on its own, let alone add in a healthy relationship to manage as well. And that’s where the skeptical attitude starts to grow. So let's dive into the complexities of cultivating healthier relationships amidst our educational pursuits.


Here are my personal tips for healthy relationships in med school
Communication:

It’s safe to say that all of us know the value of communication when it comes to delivering care. I remember saying in all of my university interviews that communication is the most important skill of a doctor - and truthfully speaking, it's a skill everyone should develop, healthcare professional or not. A lot of relationships lack good communication - it’s one of the most common issues faced by couples and it's often the solution to most arguments.


You have to discuss your schedule with your partner and let them join in on your journey through medicine so that they can help take that pressure off your shoulders. Having a heartfelt conversation can help them empathise and see what you’re going through and if they’re the right person for you, they’ll support you all the way.


Don’t be afraid to prioritise more pressing plans over other plans. Communicate with yourself and assess the importance of your upcoming commitments. While it may seem like you should be studying for several hours a day, you are allowed to take a day off and spend some quality time with your partner and forget about medicine for a short while. It’s healthier for your mind as well as your relationship. And at other times you may need to cut back on the date nights and reorganise your schedule so that you’re not slacking. And in those situations don’t be afraid to tell your partner about it - be straightforward and let them know you have an important commitment to focus on and reassure them so that they understand although you do not have very much time to spend with them, that doesn’t mean you care any less.


Love languages

Words of affirmation. Quality time. Physical touch. Acts of service. Receiving gifts.

You need to know your partner's love language, and then you need to show them you care by speaking that language. It's the best way to make them feel appreciated and it doesn't have to take up a lot of time. But using one of these ways to remind your partner that you love them is the best way to make sure they're not feeling alone or abandoned or unimportant during those times you're studying ten hours a day for an upcoming exam.

  • You could send them a message from the heart.

  • You could plan a day to spend together after your exam is over.

  • You could go give them a big hug when you find thirty seconds to spare.

  • You could make them a cup of coffee when you're making one for yourself.

  • You could buy them a bunch of snacks when you're doing your weekly grocery shop.

  • There are so many little things you can do to reassure your partner when you're unable to spend much time together.

Optimism

If you are dead set on thinking relationships in medical school will fail then I can guarantee that it probably will fail. Relationships are not easy - being close to someone romantically has a special type of intimacy that you don't have with anyone else, and there will be ups and downs, falling outs and problems that arise. But one issue arising is not a sign of a failing relationship, it's a sign to show that you need to do something to rectify the issue. You cannot rectify an issue unless you trust that it's possible to solve it.


Teamwork makes the dream work

All of my tips above require effort from both sides. Every relationship faces challenges and the only way to overcome these obstacles is to work together, communicate with each other, and be supportive and understanding of the other person's situation. It's always important to remember that if you want a relationship to work, you can't fight with each other, but instead fight together for the sake of your relationship - as cheesy as that sounds, it is true. It's you and your partner against whatever problems may arise, and that way you both have the same goal to achieve.



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